If you have a commercial drivers license (CDL) in Virginia, there are a number of things to be aware of. Commercial driver's licenses require not only more rigorous training and testing than regular licenses. They also require drivers to follow stricter rules while on the road. The reasoning for this is obvious – commercial motor vehicles are typically larger in size than regular ones, and are often hauling hazardous materials that have the potential for great danger if not handled properly.
In Virginia, as in most states, it’s important for CDL holders to know some important rules and regulations laid down by the state, in regard to penalties for moving violations and more. The information below is helpful for anyone who may be working as a commercial driver in Virginia.
Those with CDLs will be subject to more serious penalties should they be charged with moving violations while driving a commercial vehicle. Moving violations received while driving a personal vehicle, if the driver holds a CDL, may also impact the commercial driving record.
In Virginia, a point system keeps track of violations, and a driver who accumulates a particular number of points on his driving record will suffer various consequences. CDL drivers are subject to higher penalties and greater numbers of points for violations, such as:
- Speeding 1-9 mph above posted limit: 3 points
- Speeding 10-15 mph above posted limit: 4 points
- Improper U-Turn: 3 points
- Following too closely: 4 points
- Aggressive driving: 4 points
These are just some examples of the points a commercial driver's license holder can expect in Virginia for violating the rules of the road.
CDL drivers may also be held responsible for various specific violations that are related to the tasks a CDL driver must perform and the various duties associated with driving commercial vehicles. Just as an example, a CDL driver may receive violations (and hence points on his or her license) for the following:
Commercial vehicles are often subject to weight restrictions. The size and weight of a commercial vehicle means that it may be prohibited from driving on certain roads in certain areas, often because the vehicle weight can cause damage to the road. A driver who must take a commercial vehicle thorugh such an area must have a permit to do so, and should he be caught violating the rules of the permit or driving without one, he is subject to state as well as potential federal penalties.
Commercial drivers are expected to keep detailed logs of their time on the road, specifying stops, load pick-ups and drop-offs, weigh-ins, and various other check-points. This is to ensure they are meeting all requirements regarding rest time as well as meeting all regulations of the law. Drivers found to be falsifying or not completing their logs can be subject to federal and state penalties; this is typically considered a misdemeanor and can be punishable by up to six months in jail in some cases.
Speeding While Trailer Towing
The weight of a commercial vehicle, particularly when towing a trailer, makes it very dangerous to speed. Speeding while towing a trailer is a CDL-specific penalty that can result in penalties up to and including suspension of the license.
Violating Grade Restrictions
The “grade” of a road, meaning the slope or steepness of it, is a concern when it comes to controlling loaded commercial vehicles. A driver who violates a grade restriction by taking a loaded vehicle onto a heavily graded road without obeying rules and restrictions in place may be subject to multiple penalties, including suspension of the license for 60 days, even upon a first offense.
Restrictions on CDL drivers regarding which lanes they may drive in are very important. They’re typically meant not only to help protect the road surface in certain areas, but also to ensure safety of others on the road. A driver found violating any lane restrictions in the state of Virginia will be subject not only to state penalties but often federal ones, typically with revocation of the license for 30 to 60 days being applicable even in a first offense.
The state of Virginia declares that a person operating a commercial motor vehicle while in the state, who is under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicants, is breaking the law if he or she has a blood alcohol content of .04 or greater. This legal limit is .08 for regular vehicles. A CDL holder who gets a DUI in his regular vehicle should be aware that the penalties will affect the CDL as well; loss of a driver's license will also result in loss of a commercial license to drive.
Refusing to submit to a chemical test as a CDL driver is also in violation of Virginia law, and doing so will result in an arrest for DUI as well as a one-year revocation of your CDL upon a first offense. A second DUI offense results in revocation of the license for life. Should the driver convicted of DUI have been carrying hazardous material at the time, the CDL will be revoked for three years with a first offense, nad a lifetime revocation upon a second offense.
Any CDL driver with an intoxicant found in his system, even if under the legal limit, will be given a “24 hour out of service” notice that means he cannot drive for the next 24 hours.
Impact of Other Violations on Commercial Drivers Licenses
Drivers found guilty of offenses while in their personal vehicles should be aware that the offense will still have an impact upon the CDL. For example, a CDL holder commits a moving violation in hnis regular vehicle that would result in the revocation of his personal license, he is likely to lose his CDL as well.
Offenses in states other than Virginia are typically not treated any differently than those within the state. A CDL driver in Virginia who has, for example, a DUI offense in another state, who then receives one in Virginia, may find his offense treated as a repeat, even though his first offense didn’t take place I Virginia.
Options for Defense and Getting Legal Help
It’s possible for a CDL driver to defend himself against various moving violations, charges, and penalties, but it’s important to keep in mind that Virginia takes such cases very seriously, since they have a major impact on public safety. A driver who believes he was wrongfully cited should get a lawyer on his side before attempting to defend himself against the charge in court. A driver who admits to the charge but simply wants to see if it is possible to reduce the sentence and/ or the charge on his record may find it a difficult task. It is possible, particularly with a first offense, but the odds of a court being lenient on a serious offense or on a repeat offender are slim. CDL holders, whose liveliehoods often depend upon their licenses, should be aware that Virginia – and most other states – take the responsibility of their CDL drivers very seriously, and avoiding moving violations is the single best way to ensure your future employment.